Domo Arigato Tokyo

Tokyo.

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A bustling city. A shoppers paradise. A cosmopolitan metropolis. A time warp into the future. And a complete paradox from what I saw in India. Brightly lit buildings, busy intersections filled with pedestrians, clean streets, efficient subways and a thriving economy. A place where I could definitely live….if only I spoke Japanese.

Hai, Konichiwa and Arigato were the only phrases I knew and that didn’t get me very far. I’m especially grateful for my good sense of direction and time I spent living in Madrid and New York to prepare me for a solo visit here.

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I think Tokyo is very similar to New York; if every corner of New York was more like Times Square than the UWS. Geographically, it is a lot larger. It is actually the largest metropolitan area in the world! Similar to the districts in NYC, Tokyo is separated by wards or prefectures (my new favorite word), so it is relatively easy to figure out which area you are in but then another challenge to figure out where you’re going.

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There are 2 metro railways instead of 1 and an additional monorail system that goes all over the city in an oval shape. And even though Tokyo is probably as busy as NYC, in comparison it is so quiet! Most of the locals on the metro were either texting or napping. If anyone was talking, they were so quiet and polite; bowing their heads in response and respect to the other person in the conversation.

Still unsure why half the people in Asia wear masks and the other half not so much. The ones wearing them don’t even bother to take them off when holding a conversation or when taking photos. Fear of radiation or illness perhaps? Seems like extreme paranoia.

Either way, I’m very glad I had the chance to hit this city for my final stop on my Asian adventure. The sun was shining and there was the right amount of chill in the area. Perfect fall weather for sight seeing.

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I visited the new Sky Tree Tower, ascended the Tokyo Tower to the main observatory for a panorama view of the city, shopped in the Ginza district, perused the Asakusa Market and envied all those who are able to shop in the designer stores near Harajuku station.

Harajuku is the Champs Elyses of Tokyo, filled with elaborate architecture of high-end iconic fashion stores like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Miu Miu, etc. In contrast, I shopped the street markets and small boutique stores. I also relied heavily on 7-11, Lawson’s and Family mart for cheap eats, coffee and treats!

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Tokyo is expensive but easily doable on a budget. 2 ½ days was definitely not enough time but happy I got to explore parts of it. I never made it to Yoyogi park, the Imperial Palace, the morning fish market or Mt Fuji but there is always next time.

Last few highlights:

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The Sushi at Standing Sushi Bar was fresh, so tasty and all around delightful. I’m still dreaming about it. The highly recommended Ramon was not really my thing but tried some anyway because you know, you do only live once.

I attended a yoga class that was instructed in Japanese. It was a class that seemed to cater to beginners so it was fairly easy to follow. A few twists, a couple balancing postures and deep holds. I picked up inhale and exhale in Japanese but it has since escaped me. Japanese is a really difficult language to learn. I think it’s much harder than Thai, Lao or Hindi but perhaps if I stayed longer…

Final highlight would have to be the toilets. Equipped with heated seats, a bidet and soothing water sounds that played while in use; using facilities in Japan was a serious departure from the holes in the ground I had to use in India, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I won’t go into detail about the bathrooms or lack thereof in those countries. I rather focus on the positive and appreciate the way the Japanese doo. 🙂

And the extra bonus? Even though they don’t celebrate Christmas or recognize it as a national holiday, they absolutely love it! So everything was covered in lights and adorned with Christmas decorations. Christmas jingles resonated everywhere and the Japanese Christmas spirit offered me a final piece of magic to my magical filled journey.

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